On March 8, 2019, nations from around the world recognized International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrating women and girls and committing to a vision of a world that does more to support and empower them.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, ‘Balance for Better,’ hit especially close to home for WISEatlantic. The theme focused international attention on working towards a balance of genders in all areas of the workforce in order to better our world. Striving towards the day where gender balance is achieved in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers is at the core of what WISE Atlantic does.
“I think the theme was important, because many people assume that we already have a gender equitable workforce as more females are going to university or post-secondary than ever before,” says Sally Marchand, program coordinator at WISEatlantic, “But in some fields such as STEM and Business, a gender equitable workforce isn’t the case.”
STEM fields still show disparity between the percentages of men and women who choose to pursue careers in them and between the percentages of men and women who choose to stay.
“’Balance for Better’ speaks to our mission of increasing the number of women in STEM careers – a more gender equitable workforce will increase innovation and make the working environment better for both women and men.” Sally says.
WISEatlantic has been participating in IWD events since 2012. This year, WISEatlantic ran a session at MSVU during the Girl’s Conference and spoke with young girls and their parents about WISEatlantic programs at the International Women’s Day event hosted at the Halifax Central Library.
The session at the Girl’s Conference featured role models from various STEM careers who spoke with participants about their jobs. The role models were beekeeper and dietician Jillian Ruhl, software engineer Anna Bullen, chemist Christa Brosseau, business analyst Amanda Macphee, mathematician Karyn McLellan and biologist Danielle Gaiter. More than a few girls said that the workshop was their favourite.
“Exploring Careers with Impact was my favorite workshop because I learned a lot about different careers in more detail and from the person themselves. It helped me know about more career options and open up future possibilities.” one girl said.
During the event at the Halifax Central Library, Sally was interviewed by CBC radio. She says that her most memorable moment from this year’s IWD events was also at the library, listening to keynote speaker Dr. Rita Orji.
“She is so inspiring to young girls, as she hadn’t even used a computer before she enrolled in Computer Science in university and now she has a PhD in computer science.” Sally says.
Overall, both events were a success, and it was inspiring to be able to participate in such an important celebration.
“Participating in IWD events is important, as it renews the call to support women in the workforce and the challenges that they still face, particularly for Women in STEM.” Sally says. “It’s encouraging to see how many people and organizations out there are supporting Women in STEM.”
We had a fantastic time at the first-ever Girls Get WISE Science Retreat at St. FX University on March 23, 2019.
The 11 girls who participated in the event learned the physics behind roller coasters and used that knowledge to build their own roller coasters using foam pipe insulation and marbles. X-Chem Outreach coordinator Jennifer Fraser led the other hands-on session; using various methods to test the pH of various household chemicals.
Thanks to our role models, Kelsey Sampson – Primary Care Paramedic, Dr. Genice Hallett-Tapley – Chemist, Brittany MacDonald – Chemical Engineer, and Dr. Tara Taylor – Mathematician, for chatting to the girls about their careers and broadening their knowledge of STEM careers.
A special thanks also goes out to the Women in Science group at St. FX who had seven members volunteer with us!
Visit our Facebook page, facebook.com/WISEatlantic to view pictures of the event.
We were pleased to see an increase in applications for our Partnerships Program for the 2019 year, but it made it much harder to decide! Thank you to all organizations/individuals who applied.
We would like to congratulate the following organizations/individuals who will be receiving Partnerships Program Funding for 2019:
Click here for more info on our Partnerships Program funding.
Making a career choice can be a difficult decision to make – and WISEatlantic is striving to make that decision a little easier for high-school girls interested in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) career paths. At WISEatlantic’s STEM Aware event October 16, 27 high-school girls learned more about the numerous opportunities that STEM fields have to offer by meeting Mount Saint Vincent University Science graduates who work in those roles. The girls had a chance to talk with role models with job titles ranging from ‘Bone Marrow Transplant Specialist’ to ‘Registered Dietitian.’
Lottie Pascal, a Grade 11 student at Prince Andrew High School, left at the end of the night with a greater understanding of careers she’d never thought of as an option.
“I was really interested in learning about new careers that I might not have considered before: so, for example, stem cell research is not necessarily something that I would have considered before tonight but it definitely peaked my interest,” Lottie said. “If you aren’t too sure about what you want to do and you have an idea of a general field, this really expands your horizons of possible jobs.”
Grade 10 student Rahaf Abu Baker was another attendee who left with a new perspective. “I came to learn and see if I really want to do dentistry or something else – just to open my mind,” Rahaf said, “I thought of university as being a doctor, teacher, engineer, and other jobs like that, but now I know more. There are way more options than I thought there would be.”
The event was an important way for the role models who volunteered their time to meet with the girls to fill a gap they wish had been acknowledged when they were in high school.
Lauren Harrie, a role model at the event, graduated from the Mount with a Bachelor of Science and works as a Bone Marrow Transplant Specialist with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. She says that when you’re in high school, it’s hard to know about all the roles available in STEM because there are many that no one talks about.
“It’s tough to know which different niche areas there are in different concentrations. You hear about the popular, really well-known jobs but there are so many areas that you could go towards,” Lauren says, “I didn’t know a career as a Bone Marrow Transplant Specialist existed while I was doing my Bachelor of Science, so initially this isn’t a career I would’ve imagined myself in – but now that I’m in this field I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Tanya Cole was another of the role models who volunteered her time to meet with the girls. She works as a Registered Dietitian in long-term care, but didn’t discover her current career path in dietetics until she had already begun studying business at university. She switched to MSVU’s Applied Human Nutrition program after learning it was an option.
“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do coming out of high-school, and I felt like there wasn’t a lot of opportunities to learn about different careers,” Tanya said. “To be able to have a conversation with somebody, ask questions and find out more about what they did – I think that would have been tremendously helpful to me in high-school.”
This year marked the STEM Aware event’s second anniversary, and it’s an event that NSERC Chair WISEatlantic, Tamara Franz-Odendaal, hopes will continue to grow and builds on from our already highly successful activities for girls in junior high.
“By exposing girls to careers they have never heard of before and by providing them with opportunities to meet local women in these STEM careers, we can help to ensure that the girls will make career choices that are the best fit for themselves. In this way, we are reaching our goal of breaking STEM stereotypes for girls in our region”
In future years, this event will continue to provide girls like Lottie and Rahaf with new perspectives on what a career in STEM fields could look like, and give them a solid foundation on which to make post-secondary and career decisions. But Lauren Harrie wants anyone still worried about their future to remember that their decisions aren’t always as final as they think.
“It’s not an end point ever – you can get to one spot and see what other options are available at that point so I think it’s always constant learning,” Lauren says, “I would encourage anyone to go towards the paths where they see themselves and it’s amazing the sorts of opportunities that will blossom from there.”
A message to our role models:
A huge thank-you goes out to all the role models who make the STEM Aware event possible each year! This year, we’d like to give a special thank-you to the following Mount graduates who spent time talking with attendees and answering their questions:
Written by Emily Albert, WISEatlantic Volunteer and Mount student.
There is still time to apply for our Partnerships Program for the 2018/19 year. This program is an opportunity for community organizations in Atlantic Canada to apply for small one-year sponsorships for new activities and/or projects that promote the outreach, recruitment, and retention for girls, young women, and industry professionals in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM).
If you have a great idea for a new activity, conference, workshops etc. that aims to support girls and women in STEM and you and/or your organization is located in any of the Atlantic Provinces, then be sure to apply. You could receive a sponsorship of up to $3,000!
Make sure to visit the Partnerships Program page of our website for deadlines and application guidelines.
We were excited to participate in Science Literacy Week again this year with our event Out of This World! Explore Space with Local Scientists.
As the theme of Science Literacy week this year was Space, we decided to host an event that showcased the space-related research happening right here in Atlantic Canada! Our event featured Dr. Svetlana Barkanova, a Physicist at Memorial University Grenfell Campus, who spoke about her research into Dark Matter; Astrophysicist Dr. Catherine Lovekin who detailed her research who focuses on the structure and evolution of massive starts; and WISEatlantic Chair, Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal, who discussed her research on bone development of Zebrafish in a microgravity environment. The event was hosted at Woodlawn Public Library to a very engaged and curious audience of over 50 people.
We would like to thank NSERC, Science Literacy Week, and Halifax Public Libraries for the support of this event.
WISEatlantic Chair, Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal, was honored to participate in the Diversity in STEM: Why It Matters panel discussion at Acadia University on March 6th, 2018. Other panelists included Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, CEO of Digital Nova Scotia, Dr. Imogen Coe, Dean of Faculty of Science at Ryerson, and Denise Pothier, Vice President of Practice Services at Stantec. Special thanks to Dr. Randy Newman at Acadia for organizing this event. WISEatlantic was a proud sponsor.
The WISEatlantic Partnerships Program is an opportunity for community organizations in Atlantic Canada to apply for small one-year sponsorship for new activities and/or projects that promote the outreach, recruitment, and retention of girls, young women, and industry professionals in STEM. The Partnerships Program had six applicants for 2017 and the following three were successful in receiving funds for innovative programs in 2018:
Congrats to the successful applicants! The next round of submissions will open in September 2018 on our Partnerships Program page.
Robin Durnford writes how university's reliance on contract labour is creating a hostile environment for female professors. This article sheds light on the impact of contract positions, and their ramifications for women in academia.
Read the article here.
This past May, The Honorable Geoff Regan, MP for Halifax West and Speaker of the House of Commons, visited Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal's lab to learn more about her research, and the WISEatlantic program. Dr. Franz-Odendaal was later featured in his Summer 2017 constituency newsletter.
Read the article (on page two of the newsletter) here.